PJ to consider old well


The site of an historic well at Canal and Water streets in Port Jefferson, at back of photo, has been maintained by area residents who have requested permission to tear it down. In the foreground is what used to be a watering trough for horses.

The artesan well gushed water in its heyday in the 1920s. It ran dry in 1951.

PORT JEFFERSON — Some residents of Port Jefferson have approached the village council with a proposal to demolish an artesan well that has been a landmark in the town since the 1800s.

At the June council meeting, Ed “Carl” Patterson, whose house is next door to the well at Canal and Water streets, requested permission to remove the well structure. He said that he and a neighbor would demolish the concrete structure, cap the old casings below ground, haul away debris, level the gound and plant grass, all at their own expense.

The well was one of the largest artesan wells in the area when horse-drawn buggies were the main mode of transportation through the village. Known by many as the “old flowing well,” it ran with water until 1951, when, according to a story published in the Sidney Daily News in 1952, the Hussey family drilled a well to supply their restaurant, causing the old flowing well to dry up.

By the 1980s, the casing and the structure above ground had fallen into disrepair.

In 1986 and 1987, the council engaged plumbers and well drillers to assess the feasibility of trying to get the water to flow again, but they found sand in what little water did emerge and in 1987, the well was capped.

For the last several years, Patterson and others who live near the old site have maintained the property. According to Mayor David Clem, Patterson said at the meeting that the structure is in poor condition and the site would be easier to care for and look much better if the old well were removed.

“It is one of our few remaining landmarks, now that the school is torn down,” Clem said. “It’s kind of part of Port Jefferson history. At one time, people from all around would come to look at it.”

He noted that the village has done nothing to maintain the site for many years.

The council took no action of Patterson’s request other than to ask him to put the request into writing for presentation at the July 6 meeting, which will open at 7 p.m. in the council hall, 100 Spring St.

Patterson refused to comment on the matter when he was contacted by the Sidney Daily News.

“I can see both sides of this,” Clem said. “If I were a property owner, I’d want to tear it out, too. But’s been a part of the community since the 1800s.”

“The first well at the site was drilled in 1883,” wrote Christine Henderson in the Sidney Daily News in Oct. 1986. “The village, hoping to strike natural gas, drilled to 1,400 feet. After hitting only a few small pockets of gas, the drillers struck water … a second well was drilled around 1907 at … the same site.

“Village officials considered for a time the idea of having water from the well piped to local homes and purchased water mains for the extensions. It was later determined that there was insufficient pressue in the well to carry the water to homes on a hill directly north of the well. The pressure fell 2 feet short of reaching the entire village,” she wrote

The cement basin was added in 1922; the new casing in 1942. Residents in 1987 recalled that many people had visited Port Jefferson just to fill their jugs with the artesan water to take home to drink. For awhile, the well also supplied a drinking fountain at the site.

According to the Daily News account in 1987, “Lawrence Hussey had permission for years to route excess water from the flowing well by wooden trough to his pond. However, some people decided they didn’t like this arrangement and wanted it stopped.” The council considered charging Hussey for the water, but it was subsequently routed to the former Miami-Erie Canal.

“Since he no longer had water from the flowing well, Lawrence Hussey drilled two wells of his own. As a result the flowing well ceased to flow,” the account read.

Clem noted that he expects that once a formal request is submitted to the council, that they would seek public comment before ruling on the matter. Residents are welcome to comment at the July 6 meeting, if they would like to do so, he added.

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